Wednesday, August 24, 2016

ALOE VERA GROWING WELL

A little over a year ago, 2nd Family GAVE US THIS aloe vera cutting.  They said we needed it because it's always good to have some around in an emergency.

Aloe Vera giveaway cutting
I put it in this pot next to the front door and just watered it on occasion (once every couple of weeks I guess, it is a succulent family plant after all).  

Large Aloe Vera in clay pot
Here it is last weekend!  It's gone aloe-crazy 
Obviously, it's very happy in that spot and happy with the way we care for it.  I think we'll just keep doing the same thing...unless it outgrows the pot it's in.  Might be time to split it up and share the love, ha.

Anyone else keep aloe vera around?


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SNAKES ALIVE

Okay, after the delicious food post yesterday, we go to something creepy...if snakes freak you out, CLICK HERE to see an adorable kitten posting from a couple of years ago, LOL!

After all these rains, "J" from 2nd Family warned us Friday that things were very "snake-y" out there.  I said "snake-y"?  What do you mean...?

So she sent this...




Friday morning they found this in their chicken coop!  It had eaten one egg, and thankfully none of their chickens...

Then there was this second picture she sent to describe "snake-y"...

Dog bitten by snake
This is their dog Blue.  He was bitten in the face by a water moccasin...they took him to the vet and he got a shot and they said to give him Benadryl for the swelling.  He's much better now, but that sure is a sad (and puffy) face! 

AND SO...

(click on the embedded video below): 



This happened...I was far from the house and not able to go get a weapon as it would have been gone by the time I got back.  Of course I was sitting on a 700 pound mower that could be used as a weapon but A) I wasn't sure if it was a dangerous snake and B) if it was, I wasn't sure what the outcome of rolling over it might be.

Flying venomous snake? 


Snakenado? 

Um, HELL no!


We (and 2nd Family) thought it might be a rat snake...another friend asked someone who knows snakes and they said it looked like a cottonmouth.  

Yikes!  

Rat snake - not at all dangerous and eats rats and mice on the farm (and this one looks like it had a 'recent' meal).  

Cottonmouth - dangerous and poisonous snake that I shouldn't have let go.

Snake in the Grass
This was taken with my iPhone camera, zoomed in, I was not close enough to be in danger.  I am certain it did not like the roar of the mower.  I will admit, it's definitely a way to get the blood pumping!  

Yes, now we understand the word "snake-y".

Thoughts?  
Anyone have a snake encounter lately?  


Monday, August 22, 2016

BLUEBERRY JAM WITHOUT PECTIN

With my NEW GIFTS, it's time to start some canning!  

I kind of wanted to do something simple that allowed the full flavor of the fruit to come out in the end product. After much research online, I began seeing a theme.  And it was all summed up perfectly at this site.  I found this great three ingredient recipe over at The Yummy Life (thank you Monica for doing all the hard work first so the rest of us will have this great method!).

Three Ingredient No Pectin Blueberry Jam
There are only three ingredients.  I chose blueberries as they are everywhere in stores and farmers markets right now.  Plus sugar and Lemon.  That's it.

Ball jars
And I bought my jars, choosing half pint jars for this project...

Sterilizing jars in dishwasher
I used our dishwasher's sterilize setting for the jars and just kept them in the hot, steaming dishwasher until I needed them.  

Hmm, something about this picture makes me feel like I was being watched...LOL!


I didn't realize that new canning guidelines were put out a couple of years ago and the lids no longer need to be kept in boiling water.  The boiling water can affect the sealant.  So I washed the rings and lids and got them out and ready...


This is six cups of blueberries, three cups of sugar and the zest and juice of a large lemon.  For a small batch like this, I could have used half the lemon but I wanted the lemon flavor to be noticeable with the blueberries.  


You just start heating until it boils...it will foam up at that point but you just have to get past this stage (some people will skim it off, and you can, but it will disappear as it thickens, just have patience).  

Once you get past that point, you keep cooking as it reduces and thickens.  The use of pectin would make this happen quickly...


...but I wanted to be in the moment and see the process through...turn the temp down and keep simmering.  It will happen. At this point (I missed getting a photo) I took a potato masher and smashed the blueberries so we could have a chunky type jam).  This is all personal preference, we like thick and chunky.


While the berries were reducing, I put the jars over on the counter and got everything ready (the water was already boiling on the water bath canner).

Blueberry Jam with no pectin
Finally, it was ready.  I checked the texture using the chilled plate method. I put a plate in the freezer, put a tsp of jam on it, placed it back in the freezer for a minute or two and checked to see if it ran when I tilted it.  You can also do this with a spoon.  If it didn't run or ran very slowly, it was ready. 


My batch of jam was ready!  I got my canning funnel out and started filling the jars. I was a bit messy the first few times but I got better.  I removed the air bubbles, cleaned the rims with a damp cloth...


...topped them off to make sure I got the headspace at 1/4" and put the lids and rings on the jars...

Waterbath canning
...and then put them in the boiling water.  Once the water was back at the boiling point, I set the timer for 15 minutes.

Blueberry Jam
After the timer chimed, I turned the heat off and let them sit in the water for about five minutes and then took them out.  Voila!  

Four, half pint jars!

It was so much fun, I went out, bought six more cups of blueberries...

Blueberry Jam
...and made four more jars!  

So now we have eight jars of blueberry goodness in the pantry.  Well, one is in the refrigerator now...

Homemade Blueberry Jam on English Muffins
It was SO delicious this morning as we got ready for work!  This method really brings out the true flavor of the fruit.  It was amazing.

I'm already planning the next batch...I'm thinking peaches...

Is there such a thing as the canning bug?  
'Cause I think I've been bitten by it!

DISCLAIMER:

PLEASE NOTE:  You are responsible to know and understand the current canning and processing recommendations for safety.  Canning is fun but you MUST follow guidelines to make sure you are doing it safely. I had to learn (and still am) so do your research on safe canning techniques.

 A great link to official information is http://nchfp.uga.edu/ and 
of course, the literal bible of home canning information, the Ball website.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

PUT YOUR MUSCLE, VINTAGE POSTER SUNDAY

Most every Sunday, we try to post an image of old posters that we find during online surfing.  We enjoy the ones that reflect farming, gardening and/or food preservation and rationing.  We enjoy them because we often wonder if anyone today would heed the kind of advice they gave back then...enjoy!

Sign Up For a Farm Job, vintage poster image courtesy of US National Archives, public domain
During WWII, a large number of men were off to serve in the war.  That left a shortage in farm labor to deal with the fields of food and orchards, but the food still needed to get to the public.  So posters like these were put up to urge men, usually young men, to sign up and help out on farms.

I wonder if a poster like this would get today's young people to sign up for a farm job?  For some, they might ask if there was a Starbuck's nearby...or a Pokestop...LOL!

Hope you are having a good day, we are back to rain today so I'm canning and 2nd Man is baking.  It will be a good day!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

OFF TO THE FARM TODAY

Since last weekend was a washout with the rain, and also our anniversary, today will be two weeks since the last visit...


Need to check things out, see if the Zen Machine starts (and/or if the grass even needs mowing) and then to check the garden to see how the okra is doing and harvest some more herbs and jalapeños and do a few more projects.  

Hope your weekend is off to a great start!


Friday, August 19, 2016

CANTALOUPE IN THE SUMMER

So, a few weeks back, I posted about yummy and delicious watermelon.  
Now we are getting into yummy and delicious cantaloupe...we have had three in the last week alone (hey, we like to eat, at least it's healthy...unlike the doughnuts we had later, don't judge!  LOL!)

Sliced cantaloupe
Beautiful orange flesh, with that green edge on the rind all around the outside...

Fresh cantaloupe
It's just so refreshing on a hot day with its dense texture and sweet and distinctive flavor.  There was even a cantaloupe ice-cream here in Texas every Summer from Blue Bell but I haven't seen it back yet this year so we bought some vanilla ice cream and I made my own.

Just a very satisfying fruit and a great (and healthy) dessert.

What about you?  Big cantaloupe fans?  
Any favorite way to eat it? 


Thursday, August 18, 2016

HOSTAS UNDER TREES, INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Every Thursday, we like to post a picture of something we've found online that inspires us to do something similar at the farm.  
Sort of our own blog bulletin board so that we can eventually look back and, hopefully anyway, recreate it...enjoy!

Hostas under a tree, image courtesy of Chron.com
I'm always looking for ideas for future projects and there is a tree area I'm clearing (was clearing before the hellish Summer heat hit).  And once it's cleared, I need to figure out a plan.  I think planting in shade always produces its own challenges but from what I've read (and finding pictures like this), Hostas are a great choice for shade and they also grow well down here in these parts.  I'd like to eventually plant something that will just grow and maybe multiply and fill in.  Just getting ideas for the "shopping list". 

Any hosta fans?

Be inspired!


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

NO COOK REFRIGERATOR PICKLES RECIPE

A recent gift of cucumbers led to this...I did this before my recent canning gifts but I've been doing this for years so I thought I'd share...

Ingredients for Refrigerator Pickles
Slice up some cucumbers (Kirby cukes are best, they retain their crunchiest the longest), a few springs of dill, and some garlic pieces...

No Cook Refrigerator Pickles
Put them all into a jar, along with some salt, red pepper flakes and a few onion slices in this particular batch...


Fill it up with a mixture of vinegar and water.  I use about 2/3 vinegar to 1/3 water but really, you can use all vinegar if you'd like...

Fridge Pickles
Put the lid on and put it in the fridge.  
Every couple of days I turn the bottle upside down and then back upright, just to mix things up a bit...

Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles
After a couple of days, you have quick dill pickles. No canning, no boiling, no cooking.  My Grandmother used to do this all the time when I spent Summers with them.  Sometimes she'd use a couple tablespoons of sugar dissolved in the vinegar to make them sweeter, sometimes no ornions , and a few times she threw in other herbs and seasonings.  It's really just whatever taste you like.

They'll keep for a couple weeks in the fridge, though they will get softer the longer you leave them.  Of course, ours never last that long...

Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

DRY ERASE CALENDAR BOARD FIND

I went downstairs at the apartment to check out the trash area again (wait, that sounds creepy, let's just call it the "recycling area", ha!).  

That's when I saw this potential treasure leaning up against the trash recycling dumpster container:


It's a dry erase calendar board.  

I immediately thought "SCORE!"  Then another guy walked by with his dog on the way in and said "I saw that earlier but someone used permanent marker instead of dry erase, that must be why they threw it away".  Having worked in offices for years, I knew that was something that happens occasionally and I knew exactly how to fix it. 

I waited for him to walk on in and then snatched it up and headed upstairs...

Removing permanent marker from dry erase board
2nd Man probably thought...."seriously?" but he never said anything.  Anyway, I knew that alcohol works best, but we didn't have any plain rubbing alcohol so I used what I've used at the office before...Purell Hand Sanitizer.  As you can see, you just spread some on a paper towel and go over the marker and it rubs right off, just like magic!  After a few seconds of rubbing, voila!


A blank reusable monthy calendar!

The calendar portion is also metal so magnets will stick to it (it had several homemade 'months' stuck on there but I threw them away, they were well worn).  Of course the bottom is cork board for push pins.  I'm going to put it up in the barn at the farm so that I can write out what I need to do each week.  It will help me focus on what needs to be done (garden/bees/fertilize/etc) and even what I've already done.  This way, hopefully, I won't overlook anything, or maybe not as much anyway.

SCORE! 


Monday, August 15, 2016

JAM PAN AND CANNER

2nd Man bought me the coolest gifts for our anniversary (see yesterday's post).  He knows I want to get more into canning in preparation for our eventual retirement and putting up food for ourselves and said I needed better tools. 

Kilner Jam Pan
 Since we'll have plenty of fruit trees, and an acre or two of dewberries, there will be lots of jellies, jams and pie fillings in our future.  So he bought this for me!  It's the Kilner Stainless Steel Jam Pan, 8.5-Quart  (he doesn't mind that I link to Amazon, he knows I'll do that for interested people).  

Jam Pan from Kilner
It is indeed a thing of beauty.  A heavy bottom pan which is great for even heating, it's got a built in pouring lip around the edge , a handle for carrying, and markings inside that show the amount of product you have inside and how that translates to how many jars you might need.

Victorio Multi-Use Canner 
And then he found this. It's the VICTORIO Stainless Steel Multi-Use Canner.  It can be used for either water-bath canning or steam canning.  


It will hold 8 pints or 7 quarts (and of course half pints and the other odd shaped jars).  There is a temperature gauge (with different altitudes) on the lid which makes it nice to be able to know when it's reached the temperature to start timing.  It also has a super clear glass for looking inside to keep an eye on things and of course a rack that also hooks onto the sides for holding those jars of goodness before or after putting them in.

  Let the canning begin!  
(or has it already?  Stay tuned, ha!)